“I never set out to be an artist. My mother painted the walls of our home, as is our tradition,
and she would ask me to help her paint the parts she couldn’t reach!” Bhajju Shyam
Bhajju Shyam was born in 1971 in Patangarh, a Gond village in the forest. The family sent their three children
to school, but could not afford to put them all through the full term. At sixteen Bhajju left home and moved
to the city of Bhopal, where he became the apprentice to his artist uncle Jangarh Singh Shyam, the first Gondi
to draw on paper and canvas and exhibit his work outside the village. Bhajju started by filling in the patterns
on his uncle’s large canvases, but having noticed his talent, Jangarh encouraged him to strike out on his own
(after Jangarh's untimely death in 2000, a number of other members of his family and tribe have become
professional artists, including his widow Nankusia, daughter Japani and son Mayank).
Bhajju’s work began to be known throughout India, and had his first international exposure
in 1998 as part of a group exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.
In 2001 Bhajju was commissioned to paint the interiors of a chic Indian restaurant in London. After his return
to India, Sirish Rao and Gita Wolf, the publishers at Tara books, encouraged and helped him to turn his travel
experiences into an illustrated book. Before his trip, Bhajju had very little knowledge of English language and
culture, and his observations of city life are innocent, humorous, full of wonder, and totally unconventional.
His beautiful visual diary turns London into a fantastic jungle inhabited by many gigantic creatures:
elephant-airplanes, eagle-airports, dog-buses, earthworm-undergound trains and a Big Ben-rooster.
There's even Bhajju's take on Damien Hirst's dissected cow. This insightful tribal perspective
on Western modern life is published in six languages, including English.
fellow Gond artists Durga Bai and Ram Singh Urveti. Tara’s publishers came up with the idea for the book
after having noticed, during one of their illustrators’ workshops, that Gond artists included trees in all
of their drawings. That's because in the belief of the traditionally forest dwelling Gong, trees are connected
to gods and contain the cosmos.